Waymon James didn’t think he had a torn ACL. Sure, when he was forced to leave the field in the fourth quarter of TCU’s second game of 2012 at Kansas, he knew something wasn’t right. However, four days later it became official. James would miss the rest of his junior season.
“I knew I tore something in my knee but I did not think it was my ACL at all,” James said. “I knew if I could just get up and get off it, I would be all right. “And then I stood up, I couldn’t put any pressure on it. It was more serious than I thought it was. And then [our trainers] started putting pressure on it. I thought I could play so I told them I’d try to go back out there.”
Of course, he wasn’t able to return to what ended up being a 20-6 win over KU and it wasn’t long after that victory, TCU’s first as a member of the Big 12 Conference, was in the books that the young back got the news he definitely wasn’t expecting.
“When they told me I tore my ACL, I couldn’t believe it at first,” James said. “It didn’t feel like I tore my ACL I thought it was maybe my meniscus. I’ve done that before and I felt that, but I didn’t think it was my ACL at all.”
For some players who receive such devastating news, it’s too much to handle. But this former standout runner at Sherman High School took the news quite well, keeping everything in perspective as he headed forward in his rehab.
“Well, I try not to feel sorry for myself,” he said, “so when I tore my ACL, it wasn’t a big deal. That wasn’t the problem at all. What hurt me was me not being out there with my teammates.”
James admits he did not enjoy rehab one single solitary bit and recalls days where he didn’t even want to get out of bed to do his workouts. However, in the end, he was able to see the bigger picture and realize if he wanted to get back to what he had been doing for the Frogs before his injury, being their No. 1 option in the backfield, that doing his rehab was his only option.
“Sometimes I’d come in with a bad attitude not really wanting to do my rehab, but in order for me to get back to where I want to be I need to do it,” James said.
After redshirting as a true freshman in 2009, James saw his first action at TCU the following season, rushing for 513 yards on 87 carries for a 5.9 yard per carry average while also scoring five touchdowns. As a sophomore, he finished with 875 yards on 121 carries (7.2 average per carry) and scored six touchdowns.
And James was well on his way to another stellar campaign last fall as he had 168 yards on 17 carries prior to the injury. In his absence, true freshman B.J. Catalon filled in admirably, becoming the first freshman to lead the Frogs in rushing in a decade. Now that James is healthy, TCU head coach Gary Patterson has at least two great options in his backfield in the two Doak Walker Award candidates.
“Getting Waymon back is an unbelievable situation for us because I thought he was our best tailback in the fall,” Patterson said. “Just look at what he had done. He had the best yards per carry and had just done a fantastic job,” Patterson said. “What people didn’t realize about Waymon was what kind of leader that he was during two-a-days, during the off-season.”
But James and Catalon won’t be Patterson’s only options at running back as Aaron Green, a San Antonio native who sat out last season after transferring from Nebraska, where he spent his freshman year, is now eligible, which means James will have to battle Catalon and Green for carries.
However, in maybe the ultimate statement showing the sort of players and individuals Patterson brings into his program, James doesn’t lament competing for reps heading into his senior year, even with his proven track record of success at TCU. Instead, he welcomes the competition and feels it will only bring him and his fellow tailbacks, already a tight group on and off the field, even closer together to the ultimate betterment of the entire team.
“I love competition,” James said. We’ve got a bunch of great guys at running back. We’re all close to each other, just very genuine guys. We talk to each other. We watch film together. We do everything together. The more [backfield options] we got, the better for us.”
And James admits being surrounded by Catalon and Green definitely gives him a little added inspiration to return to his pre-injury form as soon as possible. “It pushes me, yes it does because I’ve got to make sure I play too,” he said. “I’ve got to make sure I come back and get my reps in. It pushes me a lot because I’m not able to get the work I should be getting.”